These lifestyle tweaks promise to lead you towards a dementia-free future. By Ute Junker.
Reading this with a cup of coffee in hand? Then take a deep swig. Now take another one. Congratulations, you could be one step closer to keeping your brain firing at full speed for longer. In her new book, “Save Your Brain: Simple Steps and Proven Strategies to Reduce Your Risk of Cognitive Decline — Before It’s Too Late” (Murdoch Books), Dr Ginni Mansberg looks at the latest evidence-based research on how to stave off cognitive decline. After interviewing 22 experts and examining more than 700 studies, Mansberg’s biggest takeaway is that reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s is easier than you think.
“Up to 40 per cent of cases of dementia and cognitive decline are completely preventable, which is both amazing and heartbreaking,” Mansberg says. “And you don’t need to give up caffeine or alcohol, or go gluten-free or dairy-free.”
For Mansberg, the search for ways to protect an ageing brain is personal. She has had firsthand experience with dementia in her family. “By the time I met my husband, his dad already had dementia,” she says. “The way my husband describes his dad is the way I describe my husband — an incredible intellect and a cheeky sense of humour — and I’m super-keen to keep him like that.”
Although the book runs to more than 200 pages packed with advice covering everything from mental health to diet and exercise, Mansberg stresses that you can help future-proof your life without overhauling it completely. “No-one can do every single thing in the book, but if you do some of them, it will have an impact,” she says. “And you will have less rick of cancer, of heart disease, of stroke, into the bargain.”
Where to start? Perhaps with your daily coffee. A large-scale study found the lowest risk of strokes and dementia in people who drank two to three cups of coffee (or three to five cups of tea) per day. Looking for other small changes that could make a big impact? Consider some of these.
Watch what you eat.
The bad news is no one diet is guaranteed to reduce your risk of dementia. The great news is plenty of dietary regimens have been shown to make a difference, from keto to Mediterranean to low-carb to vegetarian. “There is amazing evidence that most of the major diets prevent dementia, so just pick the one you like the sound of and stick to that,” Mansberg advises.
Don’t ignore depression.
“I found it really interesting that having depression is a massive risk factor for dementia,” Mansberg says. “Who knew that taking an antidepressant can stop your brain imploding and shrinking?”
Stay engaged. “Social connectedness really protects you against dementia, which is heartbreaking when you think about how many Eleanor Rigbys are out there,” Mansberg says.
Lower your blood pressure.
Think having slightly elevated blood pressure isn’t a big deal? Think again. “It turns out the target range for your top number should be around 120 [mm Hg systolic] — which means there is an amazing opportunity to make a difference by monitoring your pressure and tackling it if necessary,” Mansberg says.
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our seventh edition, Page 64 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Self Preservation Society”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.